Summertime . . . and the playin' is easy.
The schoolyear is ending for many children in the state, and they are starting to work full time at their favorite pursuit - summer vacation.Good weather and longer daylight hours mean more time is spent outdoors. Unfortunately, that can mean more hours to accumulate bruises, scrapes and cuts and more time when serious accidents can happen.
Accidents are the leading health risk facing children today. Every year, they kill and disable more children than do kidnapping, drugs and disease combined. Each year, approximately one in four children will be hurt badly enough to need a doctor's attention.
But, points out the Council on Family Health, 90 percent of childhood accidents are preventable. Accident prevention is not difficult, adds the National Coalition to Prevent Childhood Injury. It doesn't cost a lot or take much time. But it does require attention and some effort.
"You may not be able to prevent every bump, cut or scrape," says the coalition. "But some simple safety measures will lower the risk of serious injury to your children.
Here are some areas of concern and safety tips from the two organizations:
Safety on wheels
Children ages 6 to 12 are at the greatest risk for bike accidents, and injury to the head is the most serious result. The proper age to allow children to ride bicycles in the street is a difficult question and can vary from child to child, although many experts think the child should be around 9. Riding in the street should be allowed only after youngsters have mastered the rules of bicycle and traffic safety.
A bicycle helmet can save a child from serious head injury. Children's helmets adjust to growing heads but should fit comfortably and not be too loose. Buy helmets that meet the standards of and have stickers from the Snell Memorial Foundation or the ANSI.
Skateboards, too, are a source of potential injury. In fact, an estimated 350,000 children in the 10- to 14-year-old age group are hurt each year. Protective equipment
such as helmet, gloves, elbow and knee pads are a must.
Automobiles are another area where safety measures are required. Each year more than 2,700 children are killed while riding in automobiles, and many thousands of others are injured. Many injuries can be prevented or reduced by proper use of safety belts and infant car seats. In a crash at 30 mph, for example, an unbelted child would hit the dashboard with as much force as in a fall from a three-story building.
On long trips, take along safe toys that will occupy the child, and explain the importance of not distracting the driver. Never let a child ride on a passenger's lap. This could increase the chances of injury.
Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death of children. Most drownings or near-drownings occur when a child accidentally falls into a pool or is left alone in the tub.
A startling fact to keep in mind is that young children can drown in less than 2 inches of water in seconds. Children under 4 are at especially high risk.
Children over age 3 should be given swimming lessons by qualified instructors. But remember that lessons don't make your child "drown-proof."
Never let older children swim in unsupervised areas. And teach your children four key rules of swimming safety:
- Swim with a buddy, never alone.
- Don't dive into unknown bodies of water. Jump feet first to avoid hitting your head on a shallow bottom.
- Don't push or jump on others.
- Be prepared for an emergency. Know how to act, whom to call.
Fire and flames
Children are fascinated by fire even though they know it is dangerous. Kids under 5 are at greatest risk when fire strikes. They may panic and hide in closets or under beds.
Teach your children what to do in case of fire: Get out fast; crawl low under the smoke; test a door - if it is hot or there's smoke use another way out; once out, stay out.
As a family, plan a fire escape route and practice it until everyone is comfortable with it.
Be sure children know what to do if clothing catches on fire: Stop, shout for help, but don't run - running fans the flames. Drop to the floor, roll back and forth to put out flames. Cool with a burn with cold water.
Teach children that matches and lighters are tools for adults, not toys.
Also remember than hot liquids can cause as serious burns as fire does. Common sense steps can prevent scalds in the kitchen or bathroom. Keep hot foods and drinks away from the edge of tables. Supervise children carefully if they are in the kitchen while you are cooking. For safe bathing, set the water heater's thermostat to low, warm or 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Your clothes and dishes will get clean at this setting.
Common household items like medicines, makeup, cleaning products and plants account for most home poisonings. Again, children under age 5 are most vulnerable.
Keep poisons and medicines out of sight and reach of children.
And be prepared. Keep the number of your local poison control center handy. If you suspect a poisoning:
1. Stay calm and keep the child calm.
2. Look in the child's mouth and remove any remaining pills, pieces of plant, etc.
3. Take the child and the poison to a phone and call the poison center or your doctor. Be prepared to give the child's age and weight, the product name and the amount swallowed.
4. Follow directions. Never give the child anything (even syrup of Ipecac) without advice.
For children age 1 to 4, home falls are the leading cause of accidental death and serious injury.
Never leave babies alone on beds, changing tables or sofas. Keep stairs well-lit and clear of clutter. Use safety
gates if there are infants and toddlers in your home.
Don't rely on screens to prevent falls from windows. Move chairs and other furniture away from windows to discourage young climbers.
Also check out places in the neighborhood where children play. Use of unsupervised school and public playgrounds and playground equipment results in emergency-room treatment for more than 100,000 children each year. Parents should evaluate the safety of each facility, especially concerning availability of soft, protective surfaces in case of falls.
Studies have shown that a serious sunburn in children can increase chances of getting skin cancer in later life. So, parents should take extra steps to avoid sun hazards in young children.
- Use sunscreens on children as young as 6 months old unless your physician indicates otherwise. Keep infants younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight.
- Limit children's sun exposure during the peak intensity hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. And take children out of the sun at regular hours.
- Keep infants' heads covered at all times when in the sun, and try to get older children to wear a cap or sun visor.
- Use waterproof sunscreens when swimming and reapply after toweling off.
- A tan will provide some protection against harmful rays, but not enough. Continue to use sunscreens even after youngsters have begun to tan.
- Set a good example by practicing preventative sun- and skin-care habits yourself.